TB outbreak at SWC, warnings for BVH students

Marina Santana De Valdez

Marina Santana De Valdez, Sports Editor

Southwestern College (SWC) has been working with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) and Public Health Services (PHS) to investigate a recent outbreak of Tuberculosis (TB) on campus. SWC sent out emails alerting their students and Bonita Vista High (BVH) students taking or who took SWC courses last semester that there was a TB outbreak between August 2019 and December 2019. SWC has been providing different resources for students to stay healthy and become informed about the disease.

In addition, SWC provided a free conference about TB open to anyone on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. The conference took place in the Cesar Chavez Building on campus and was hosted by a PHS and HHSA investigator. During the conference, the investigator discussed what TB was and passed out pamphlets and flyers about the disease.

TB is an airborne disease, meaning it spreads through coughing; however, some common misconceptions are that it can be spread through objects, food or insects.

“TB is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. It’s contracted through air droplets — [just] like coughing. It’s a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs, but it can go to other places like kidneys, the brain [or] the spine,” BVH nurse Paola Garcia said.

Some common TB symptoms are coughing, weight loss, night sweats, coughing up blood, feeling weak or sick, fever and chest pains. Garcia advises avoiding being in contact with people who have TB and avoid places where coughing may be prevalent.

“TB is very serious because it can affect the lungs and other organs. It’s treatable, so that’s a good thing. There are medications [and] antibiotics that a person would be put on for several weeks if they have it, but it could be very serious,” Garcia said.

For 11 dollars, SWC students can get tested for TB at SWC. Meanwhile, if an SWC student received a separate email informing them that there was a possibility they were exposed to the disease, the testing was free. If tested negative for TB, the person would be advised to take a follow-up test about eight to ten weeks later. There are different ways a person could get tested ー through a skin test, blood test or a CXR (chest X-Ray)

Garcia said if there was ever a case at BVH, the PHS would notify the school, and staff would send out emails and letters to parents and students. Out of the 7.4 percent of BVH students that currently take a class at SWC or took a class at SWC last semester, only 14 percent received an email about the TB outbreak at SWC.

According to the County of San Diego Tuberculosis Control Program’s 2018 Fact Sheet, “The number of cases [in San Diego] in 2018 was 51% lower than 1993 (469 cases), the year with the highest number of cases in decades, and 28% lower than the 5-year average from 2002-2006 (316 cases).” The PHS representative stated that the county of San Diego is working on a plan to eliminate TB in the city by 2050.

SWC staff is encouraging students to go to their medical provider to get tested, and they are promoting sanitary practices in order to keep everyone healthy. However, classes are continuing as usual as the PHS and the HHSA are still investigating the outbreak and ensuring no others have contracted the disease.